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Monday, April 07, 2008

Topic o' the week - Distractions

This week's discussion topic is about the little things that distract us from our writing. Not major life events, but mundane items that keep us away from our our love/hate relationship with the keyboard.

Most writers will tell you that the way to get something written is to simply put your behind in the chair and write the dang thing. Yeah, right. We know that it's harder than that. Spouses, kids, jobs, chores, Free Cell addiction...they all throw monkey wrenches in our best-laid plans to craft the world's greatest tome. What are some of the things that can motivate us to face the page and get going?

My own current work floundered for a year or so, until my amazing friends did something I couldn't - set a specific goal. 'First draft completed by year end', they said. After I was done laughing, I realized it would be do-able. I set a word count target per day. I wrote as much as I could on some days, and on others, well... I had to take care of kids, jobs, and life. Doing one hour sprints with my friends brought out creativity in me that I didn't know I had. I wrote over 50,000 words in less than eight weeks - and I have three busy boys, two jobs, and a husband (though he's a very supportive husband). Imagine my surprise when I finished two weeks ahead of schedule!

Your motivation could be a promise to submit to an agent, a deadline from your editor, a contest cut-off date, a looming holiday or upcoming birthday...whatever works for you, use it! Maybe start with fifteen minutes to write or journal. Then make it thirty. Then shoot for a one hour sprint, three times a week. Just keep going! If you love games, make the game your reward for writing a few hundred words. ( A word of caution...if your reward is one dark chocolate M&M per word, it'll only make your behind meld with your chair. I'm just sayin', is all.)

So, what are your distractions, and what motivates you to ignore them and face that empty page?


**A small plug here...the FTP members took an online workshop from Writer's University called 'Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors'. It's all about finding out what works for you to make your goals attainable. It's written and moderated by Margie Lawson. I highly recommend any Writer's University class!


Gerb said...

Ha! I get distracted by *everything*! I think I'm ADD... The thing that keeps me motivated is having a deadline. Otherwise, I could keep playing with each manuscript forever. Even if it's my own deadline (as opposed to my editor's) it still gives me the extra motivation to stick with my writing even when the sun is shining outside and the laundry needs to be done and the chocolate is calling from the kitchen...

Nicole Maggi said...

It's amazing what a little accountability can do. I know that I'm more apt to reach my goals if I know that I have to report in to someone. It also helps to write down your goals. Once it's in ink, on paper, it's like a contract. And you don't want to break a contract!

Ginger Calem said...

Ah, distractions! I sometimes think my entire life is a distraction trying to keep me from my writing goals. What I find works for me is the reward system. I trick myself into getting my words done for the day...or whatever that day's goal is writing-wise. Once I finish 1000 words or edit 30 pages or revamp my synopsis, I get a break and a treat. My break is usually some sort of housework so I justify a big ol' treat, like reading, email, or lunch with my friends.

I have to finish the goal before I get the treat. Yes, I've cheated on this and, mercy, the guilt! I don't recomment it.

My other advice is to find out what time of day will be your most productive and carve out that time and honor it. Be loyal to yourself. For me, I need to write early in the day. I have to get it behind me so I can enjoy my reward. Often I find that I get on a roll and can keep going. Huge bonus points on those days!

For me it's all about taking myself and my writing seriously. You have to find the tools to help you accomplish your goals and win the battle over the distractions.

Julie O'Connell said...

Good point about the productive time, Ginger. My most productive time is morning, but since I start work at 6:00 am, my available time is at the dance studio with my kids at night. Unfortunately, by then I'm bleary eyed and incoherent. :-) Instead of doing nothing, I try to brainstorm ideas, free write new things, and leave the editing and revising to when I have an available brain cell or two. For me, it's all about routine.